“what keeps us from loving each other” by maureen

4 Sep

[Note: Maureen is a local artist and devoted mother of two. Visit her blog to read more of her personal essays on love and relationships. What Keeps Us from Loving Each Other was originally posted here.]

I was raised in a family consumed with frustration. An aching sense of disconnect haunted my father, and slowly eroded the rest of the family until there was hardly anything left of us. It was only the Great Divider that was powerful enough to liberate my mother, sister and me from the grip of his anguish. The inevitability of death inspired my mother to leave him. I will always be in awe of this simple act of courage from her…it continues to challenge me.

When I made my own family, I did it with someone far better off than my father; yet there was still a disconnect. Things that should have been easy never were, and I guess my partner finally realized never would be. He left, leaving me grieving with more passion than I knew I had in me… until it was over. Grief abated. Peace rests in its place, as well as a question I need answered.

What keeps us from loving each other?

Psychologists, philosophers, gurus, and artists of every ilk have taken on this question. Consuming more of their words than I probably ever needed, I still didn’t find what I was looking for. Maybe this is a question one must answer for oneself.

When I have been unable to love, it’s been because I was hurting and afraid. Fairly brave, I’ve reached out anyways, only to be bitten more than a few times. Romances, friendships, and kinships have been sources of pain, but also revelation. Love, as it turns out, is far from simple affection. It’s much more than something one feels inside, and can trap and nurse privately, like a bottle of booze, or one last cigarette. Love is something so much more than this.

Love is communion. Within the self, it’s expressed when all parts of the personality connect, and accept totality with grace.

With others, love is the connection, the making of one, between people. It’s most plainly expressed in the marriage ceremony, when two partners kiss: the two become one, for an instant. Two lives become one: a grand gesture to which all other gestures of love dim.

But damned, if we’re not all broken; and those moments of connection end, and can only be picked up again with effort. As we age, painful moments seem to build up; sometimes the only way to purge them is to purge a relationship. This is what divorce is. It’s the opposite of that wedding kiss; it is a pulling away of those lips.

What keeps us from loving each other is the billion little stabs of pain inflicted by the other, or ourselves. But without love, we’re inconsolable. A lonely person is in far more pain than one in relationships. Even when we hurt each other, it’s better than being alone.

Even in loss, grace finds us, and provides opportunities to love again. After one connection is extinguished, a better one can be made, if we’re willing. Here is the secret of loss: it opens us up to new experiences, new people, and new relationships. Like an empty seat on a full flight, love must be filled by someone.

We are not stuck in a rut when we love. We can love many people, and in lots of different ways. The connections between friends, spouses, lovers, and families are all different expressions of love. And love, in all its richness, can be enjoyed in many flavors. Like chocolate…or coffee…or microbrew.

We can keep ourselves from love, or we can surrender and trust it. It’s completely up to us. When we understand this, we never have to be lonely again. When we understand what keeps us from loving each other or ourselves, obstacles disappear, and we can move forward freely.

Love promises renewal, and sneaks in on us when we’re sure it’s long gone. Love can be silly and strange and fun. It can be simple, like that for a pet, or eternal, like that between a parent and child. Diversity makes it infinite; openness makes it strong.

Closure for my divorce came recently, when on vacation with my children. We visited with kind relatives who understand us. I was heartened to see my children are fine. Laughing uproariously, playing fifteen hours a day, and reveling in joy: my kids showed me they are mending nicely. For this I am so grateful.

My own bleed out of emotion has ebbed as well. Any lingering bitterness will fade as I move on with my life, and find a cabin mate for that empty seat. Life moves on because love allows it to; and in humbler moments, I know this was for the best.

What keeps us from loving each other is pain and fear of pain. Once we understand loneliness is a surer source of pain than relatively healthy relationships, we see the risk is worth it. Love is worth it. We have nothing to lose by embracing it. Only foolishness keeps us from loving.

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